There’s not many places in our vast country that can claim a National Park, State Forest and a Conservation area with the same locality name - but Byfield in North Queensland can. Located on the Capricorn Coast, Byfield is about an hours drive north of Rockhampton and is claimed to be the start of the largest undeveloped area on the central Queensland coast, with it’s massive amount of plantation pine forests, ruggered mountains and large acres of low growing health lands covering massive amounts of sand dunes.
Getting to Byfield is as easy as heading north along the Byfield tar road from Yeppoon, through some pretty amazing lush queensland farmlands, mango and Pandana’s plantations where ruggered pinnacles and the coastal range shadows the gullies below. Mount Ganter, Maryvale, Bayfield, Castle Rock and Rocky Perch are significant landmarks that you can’t miss as you head further into Byfield. A recommended option before you head into the State Forest or National Park is to drop into Byfield store for last minute supplies, a wonderful coffee or some local knowledge for any current warnings as they generally have their finger on the pulse.
Byfield State Forest covers an estimated 25 000 ha with a diverse range of pine plantation which is logged commercially, has large areas of Wallum swamplands along side pockets of stunning rainforest areas. The great thing about this area are the activities available for the tourists and locals. Camping is permitted at several places that include Upper Stoney on the banks of Stoney Creek where swimming is a welcome relief when the days are hot. Across at Red Rock the camping areas are huge with large grassy sites where plenty of tall trees offer shade and dogs are allowed if kept on their lead. Water Park Creek is another great camping spot where you can swim, explore surrounding areas on the walking trails and even have a quiet fish. With the abundant water beside the camp, Kingfishers, Doves and other birds often call this haven home.
All these spots are camper trailer friendly, fires are allowed in the designated areas and also offer toilets. The Byfield state forest is used for other recreational activities like bushwalking, off-roading, fishing and mountain bike riding. A little fact for this area is that the local Byfield fern is harvested commercially for sale at local florists. Byfield National Park is next level exploring where you need to be self sufficient, 4wd aware and savvy, listen to local warnings and really isn’t camper trailer or caravan friendly.
As you head along the dirt tracks eastward towards the coast there are pockets of ancient Cycads, the colourful Byfield Grevillea, tall gums and the pesky lantana making it’s presence felt. The road in is often regarded to tracks like at Cape York, narrow, rough, there are several deep creek crossings and then you hit the sand. Designated areas recommend you lower tyre pressures because the sand is extremely soft and with around 60 km of trails within the Byfield northern end this reduces damage to the trails, gives you better traction and also allows for better control of your vehicle. It’s an amazing journey as you hit the sand tracks. The sand is stark white where you need to wear sunnies, often there are dingo prints in the sand along the road and the views as you crest the hills are simply stunning.
As you get closer to the coast Big Sandy appears before you. This massive sand dune has to be attempted with respect. It’s a long 1km uphill run in your 4wd where if you have the wrong tyre pressure you’ll need to reverse back down and start again. This is the last major obstacle before hitting Nine Mile Beach and your designated campsite which must be pre booked online before you arrive. Nine mile beach is just that. Nine miles of unbelievable open and great beach driving. Just a caution tho .. there are 4 metre tides up here so you need to know what the water is doing at anytime. One way in and way way out. There are 4 campsites along the beach, each with their own special quality. Views down to the open water, some have dune walks and others you can watch the sun set behind you over the mountains. There are no toilets and no fresh water is available so you need to be totally self sufficient and adhere to the rules of the park.
For the adventurous, a great test of 4wd and your driving skills is to head the very northern end to Five Rocks beach. Getting here is as easy as heading back off the beach, down Big Sandy and then follow the signs to Five Rocks. A little surprise in here are the fishing shacks that a few lucky locals have for their own little getaways. Don’t expect to find and shops or fuel in here - often you won’t even see a local but they may see you. The track down onto Five Rocks beach is aptly named the Death Vally Track. It’s extremely narrow, the trees touch the roof and the sides of your 4wd and it can be very soft. But once you get down to the beach it is simply stunning. Views to Five rocks ( yes there really is 5 rocks ) and north up the coast. Queensland’s NPWS go to great lengths in this area with weed control, 4wd timber ramps on significant fragile areas, they have placed intersection numbers on tracks that criss cross each other and maintain the park to high standards working with the local Durmbal people. There are a host of walking trails for thosewho like a sense of adventure from 30min walks to overnight trails with walk in only campsites south at Corio Bay.
But this park doesn't come without its handful of dangers. Being in the north Queensland region be wary of signs that highlight dangers. These may include crocodiles, dingoes, bullrouts, weather conditions, tides and current sand drifts. Any current warnings can be found online at www.npsr.qld.gov.au, Byfield store or by speaking to a ranger in the area.
This is one destination that you’ll want to go back for more as one trip is never enough.